Keywords: citation distribution, reference distribution, skewness
Abstract: This article studies massive evidence about references made and citations received after a 5-year citation window by 3.7 million articles published in 1998 to 2002 in 22 scientific fields. We find that the distributions of references made and citations received share a number of basic features across sciences. Reference distributions are rather skewed to the right while citation distributions are even more highly skewed: The mean is about 20 percentage points to the right of the median, and articles with a remarkable or an outstanding number of citations represent about 9% of the total. Moreover, the existence of a power law representing the upper tail of citation distributions cannot be rejected in 17 fields whose articles represent 74.7% of the total. Contrary to the evidence in other contexts, the value of the scale parameter is above 3.5 in 13 of the 17 cases. Finally, power laws are typically small, but capture a considerable proportion of the total citations received.